The Evening Spider by Emily Arsenault

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

The Evening SpiderArsenault is a favorite author of mine and her new book, The Evening Spider does not disappoint. The book is told from the point of view of two women living more than a century apart.

Abby Bernacki , her husband and infant daughter have moved into an old house in Haverton, Connecticut. When Abby hears what sounds like a voice “shhh” coming from the baby monitor she becomes concerned. When her daughter has unexplained circular bruises appear after being in her crib, Abby begins to notice other odd things that seem to happen in their new house-especially in her daughter’s bedroom. Abby decides to research the house and the Barnett family who lived in it for generations.

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Francis Barnett lived in the same house in the 1880’s. When we first meet Francis, she is an inquisitive young woman, but soon we see her as a new mother who is terribly lonely. Her husband is busy with a murder trial and so is gone for long stretches of time. She does some unusual things that lead to her first being put on bed rest and then sent to the insane asylum in Massachusetts.

The story shifts back and forth between the two women as Abby reads an old diary written by Francis. I really like the book but the shifting in time frustrated me because every time the shift occurred the story had reached an important moment in one of the women’s lives. Slowly readers see how the past is entangled with the present. This is not a new technique, but Arsenault does an excellent job of weaving the two stories together for readers in The Evening Spider.

Based loosely on an actual murder case in the 1880’s, the author includes at the end of the book some details of the actual murder case and lets readers know which characters and places are real and which ones she invented for the book. It was a nice finishing touch.

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